Fatma Abubakar is the DHL Uganda country manager. She spoke to Flavia Nassaka about the performance of the logistics and shipping industry.
What are the key elements in your management style as a manager?
I don’t lock my door; I believe in an open-door management style. I believe in people because they are key to growing a business. I like to interact with my staff on a face to face basis as this helps me understand their concerns. Motivated people deliver quality service, which in turn brings in loyal customers. I am interested in my staff’s development and growth and therefore spend most of the time with my team.
What is your assessment of the performance of the logistics and shipping industry in Uganda?
With abundant natural resources and with the country now prioritizing infrastructural development, we believe that the industry will continue growing as these are the factors that keep the logistics industry going. Consumer spending has also increased – something that has definitely led to some growth in the industry.
What challenges does Uganda, being a landlocked country, pose to international shipping and logistics as an industry?
Challenges faced in Uganda are the same as those faced in most African countries – poor infrastructure, low internet connectivity and other IT systems. However the promise by the East African Community to prioritize infrastructural development could open up the region thus making it easier to do business.
What is DHL’s strategy in realizing the country’s potential despite such challenges?
Our strategy is really understanding the challenges and knowing how to deal with them. We’ve been in the continent for over 36 years. We have knowledge about the industry and also the experience being the only company that is operating its own airline. We actually connect Africa to the world.
In July last year DHL announced plans to multiply five retail points in the country to allow Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to easily access shipment services. How far have you gone with this?
We normally help SMEs. We have a programme where we partner with the local business people running kiosks where we train and brand them and then they accept shipments on behalf of DHL. So if you are to send an international document, you can actually access the service there. In doing that, we are growing them to do business internationally. We have been able to extend our branches to Fort Portal, Mbarara and Jinja. We have also partnered with Total petrol stations where one can now access DHL services.
The World Bank Logistics Performance Index (2010) ranks Uganda at 66 out of 155 countries for overall logistics performance. What implications does this performance have on a growing economy?
From where Uganda was and how it is now, there has been improvement in infrastructure, customs clearance and the general economy. This actually shows that not just the industry but the economy is growing and that there’s increasingly need to work closely with government agencies. For instance at DHL, we now work directly with customs agents within our facilities and this has helped us to get goods efficiently while following the law.
What unique opportunities does the regionalization of economies like EAC present to the shipping and logistics industry?
Regionalization is about creating a business environment for countries to be able to work with other countries other than obstructing them. I am optimistic that such blocs will help developing countries prosper economically.
What key areas should the government and its partners focus on to spur growth of the shipping and logistics industry?
They need to improve customs IT making it easier for clearing and also for a tax payer to pay remittances. If that can be improved, doing business would be easier. Globally, everyone is going digital and if we want to growwe must embrace this change.
Where do you see DHL Uganda operations in the next few years?
We invest in facilities to give people good environment to work in and we will continue focusing on training. We have a system called ProView. This is our newest on-line service that gives a client total visibility of their shipments faster and easier. The moment you send a shipment, you get an instant message and you will getting updates until you receive the package. We are committed to improving trade.
What is your projection of the shipping and logistics industry in Uganda in the next few years?
Logistics in Uganda will grow because we still have a need to trade with other countries. There’s still so much opportunity in agriculture because people will still have to send their samples across the world. Even with the trend of doing business on-line, there are some things that you can’t send electronically.